Reading: Psalm 138
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. Psalm 138:7 NIV
I love this verse. I imagine myself walking calmly through a storm, surrounded by dangers and troubles, with “baddies” coming at me from all directions. And God is there walking along beside me, swatting them all away!
God never promises me a life free of trouble. Quite the opposite, in fact! If I am truly following in Jesus' footsteps, I can expect the same opposition and persecution he faced.
But, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, [God will] preserve my life; [he will] stretch out [his] hand against the anger of my foes, with [his] right hand [he will] save me.” I need never fear trouble, nor the anger of those who would oppose me because of my faith, because God is with me, and he is good. Always.
If I'm to expect trouble, I might as well prepare for it. Walking through a time of trouble can feel like walking through a minefield. Yes, God promises to be with me, and to guide my every step, but all those problems can be stressful. How should I deal with that?
With thankfulness. It's my secret weapon against fear and anxiety! There is always something to be thankful for. And when I thank God for all the good things in my life, my focus moves off my problems and onto God's goodness. Instead of being overwhelmed by my problems, I can be overjoyed by God's love!
I can thank God not just for the good I have experienced, but for his promises. Thankfulness is a great way to declare truth. The promises of God are always greater than my “light and momentary troubles”, and declaring them can turn apparent defeat into glorious victory.
The truth of God is always greater than the 'facts' of my current circumstances.
No wonder Paul says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Lord Jesus, I have so much to thank you for. I choose to focus not on my problems, but on your goodness. Help me to develop a one-track mind which turns by habit immediately to thankfulness.
Reading: Psalm 103-105
He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night. They asked, and he brought them quail and satisfied them with the bread of heaven. He opened the rock, and water gushed out; like a river it flowed in the desert. Psalm 105:39-42 (NIV)
When God brought his people Israel out of Egypt and into the inhospitable harshness of the desert, the people had absolutely no idea that they were about to enjoy the faithful hospitality of their God. Rather, many of them feared they were about to die. The environment offered them nothing. There was no way they could provide for themselves – there was no food, no water and no protection from the elements. Unless God miraculously provided for them, they would surely die. But God did provide, and in a way that left no one in any doubt: God was looking after them.
I'm used to the idea of providing for myself. I work to earn money and provide for the needs of my family. I have insurance lest something be stolen or damaged. The government provides services to care for me should I become sick or needy. If I'm hungry, I just go to the pantry. I'm certainly grateful for all those things, but I really don't know what it's like to have nothing, to be absolutely dependant on God for everything as the Israelites were.
Yet everything I have comes from God. He is the source of everything I will ever need. If all I depend upon is taken away from me, he will still be my Provider. It's all because of God's wonderful grace. So what can be my response?
Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name. Psalm 105:1
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Thank you Father that I can trust you. Please continue to provide everything I need. Thank you that I can trust you with my life, and with my family. Thank you for the opportunity to work and earn an income. Thank you for the good things you provide, and for all your blessings to me. I look to you, Lord. May nothing else have a hold on me except the desire to know you more, and enjoy your grace forever.
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Psalm 105:4-5 (NIV)
See also: Jesus Wants Me to Ask!
Reading: Joshua 2-6
The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. Joshua 3:17 (NIV)
The priests who carried the ark of the covenant had a very noble and serious job! As the people of Israel prepared to cross the Jordan river into the land God had promised them, and with war imminent, it was the priests carrying the ark who took the lead.
Carrying the ark on its poles, the priests stepped into the flooding River Jordan, then watched as the water ceased to flow, the water having “heaped up” somewhere way upstream. They then “stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” Considering the nation probably numbered into the millions, they must have stood there for a long time.
The ark was no doubt a heavy thing to carry, both physically and spiritually. Physically because it was covered with gold, with the lid being solid gold, and spiritually because those carrying it were in a sense carrying the very presence of God. It was certainly not a job for the feeble or the faint-hearted.
Being in the service of God is still not for the feeble or faint-hearted. It is a noble calling. But carrying the Presence of God into the world can be hard work, both physically and spiritually. Even Jesus faced hardship and suffering, with long days and endless demands placed on him from those who desperately needed to experience the Presence of God in their lives. Yet that was why he came, that we might be welcomed into the very Presence of God.
If I am to continue with my part in this noble calling, I'm going to need perseverance, to keep pushing on even when things are uncomfortable. That doesn't sound like much fun really, unless I can also get myself infused with life's “essential oil” – joy. Fortunately, God specialises in joy! Jesus came to bestow on me the “oil of joy” (Isaiah 61:3). Because the Holy Spirit lives in me, I am his dwelling place, and 1 Chronicles 16:27 tells me that “…strength and joy fill his dwelling.” (I note strength and joy are together). The fruit of the Spirit's work and presence in my life includes joy. (Gal 5:22).
I suspect that the secret to letting joy truly infuse my life is firstly to bring daily to God everything that would contaminate that essential oil – sin, worries, annoyances, frustrations, hurts – and secondly, to daily practice those three short verses that so beautifully summarise God's plan for my life: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess 5:16-18
As well, I need to pray for those who serve God in positions of leadership and responsibility in the Body of Christ. They carry a heavy load, and they deserve my respect and support.
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens. (Psalm 68:19-20). Thank you Lord for joy. It's one of my favourite things! How wonderful that it's in joy that my strength is found – who would have thought they went together?! Help me Lord to bring to you daily everything that would make that oil of joy rancid, that you would purify joy and perfect holiness in me.
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:10-12 (NIV)